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Girls Build! is a unique experiential program designed to engage girls ages 12-15. Participants will receive hands-on learning and skill-based practice with architecture, as well as learning from women who are leading the way in STEAM Fields.

About Girls Build!

Girls Build is a unique experiential program designed to engage girls ages 12-15 in exploring the built environment through intentional and rigorous engagement. Participants will explore Chicago’s built environment through hands-on learning. They will foster a deep understanding and appreciation for the built environment and the communities that helped shape Chicago all while receiving hands-on learning and skill-based practice with architecture. This program is particularly focused on providing participants with access to gender-affirming learning that engages with women who were and still are, crucial in shaping the science, technology, engineering, architecture, and construction (STEAM) fields.

Spring 2024 Girls Build! Session

Dates: Sunday, April 7 – Sunday, May 5

Time: 1:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Chicago Architecture Center: Design Studio

111 E Wacker Drive, 60601

Theme: Design Through the Decades 

Design isn’t just about architecture – it’s a part of the fashion and music worlds, too! Students ages 12-15 will explore how fashion, music and architecture intersect and share ideas throughout history. We’ll tour iconic Chicago buildings, meet design professionals, and create a fashion project based on an architectural style. 

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Why Girls?

Various studies have shown a persistent gender gap in the STEAM fields, with women representing less than 30% of the personnel in the various industries. While Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color make up less than 5% of the fields.

As numerous studies have shown, what these numbers indicate is not that women don’t have the capacity and competence to enter these fields, but rather that there are real structural biases in the STEAM fields that make it hard for women to pursue these careers.

In their study “Using Design Thinking to Cultivate the Next Generation of Female STEAM Thinkers” Rie Kijima, Mariko Yang-Yoshihara, and Marcos Sadao Maekawa show that intentionally engaging young girls through STEAM programs “can produce positive change in how female youths relate to STEM.” Their findings note that an engendered approach to STEAM programing showed that girls displayed an “increased interest in engineering, greater creative confidence, more positive perceptions of STEAM, higher levels of empathy and pro-social factors, and a more varied outlook on career options.”

Our Girls Build! program was purposely designed to empower young girls and positively impact the gender gap in STEAM.

Our Approach

Chicago is one of the most diverse cities in the United States but also one of the most segregated. For Girls Build! to meet its mission of serving all girls in the city of Chicago it must be intentional in its approach.

In 2023, the CAC conducted a needs-based assessment to better understand the program’s impact. The assessment highlighted the successes of the program and the areas of improvement. Utilizing this information, we restructured the Girls Build! program to ensure that it meets its mission of serving all girls.

Save the dates for upcoming programs:

Summer Camp:
July 15 -19: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
July 29 – Aug 2: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Girls Build! Day Festival:
Saturday, August 24: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Fall Program:
Sundays,  October 27 – December 8: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

To ensure that household income is not a barrier for girls wishing to participate we offer financial assistance in the form of scholarship to qualifying participants.

For more information or registration inquiries, please contact CACLearning@architecture.org  

Testimonials
  • "Thank you so much for allowing my girls to participate in this fantastic class, what an experience it was for them but also for me. You see, both my girls are diverse learners and I often struggle to find classes that will take them for that reason, plus where they feel like they are successful."—M. (Parent)
  • "Gaby is always sharing about Girls Build! at school. In fact, they are doing a group project where they redesign a local park ‘to scale.’ She busted out her Girls Build! skills and went around the class helping each student. If you couldn’t tell we love, love, LOVE Girls Build!. It’s one of the best things the girls have done since moving from California and THANK YOU so much for giving Gaby this opportunity."—S. (Parent)
  • "Originally, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but after participating in Girls Build and meeting a female architect from Mexico, I think I want to be an architect instead."—C. (Age 14)
  • "I have always wanted to be a model, and I STILL want to do that, but after Girls Build! I think I want to own my own agency, so I have control over where my image is used and what products I endorse."—A. (Age 12)

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Partner Organizations

  • 3form
  • AIA Chicago
  • Bailey Edward
  • Chicago Mobile Makers
  • Chicago Public Library
  • Chicago Women in Architecture
  • Columbia College Chicago
  • Gensler
  • Girls Garage
  • Girls Inc of Chicago
  • IIDA Illinois Chapter
  • IIT
  • Jane Addams Hull House
  • JGMA
  • Kathy Bolhous Foundation
  • MillerKnoll
  • Open Architecture Chicago
  • PORT Chicago
  • Project Exploration
  • Rebuilding Exchange
  • RossBarney Architects
  • Skidmore, Owings + Merrill
  • Stantec
  • Step-Up

This program is sponsored by MillerKnoll and Denise Littlefield Sobel

Miller Knoll

Denise Littlefield Sobel

Bolhous Foundation